Within hours of celebrating a stage win for Alex Howes and a 2nd place finish overall for Tom Danielson at the USA Pro Challenge, Team Garmin-Sharp riders were en route to Garmin headquarters, just outside Kansas City. Their purpose: to thank Garmin for its ongoing support and greet their fans from the heartland.
All eight cyclists from Team Garmin’s Pro Challenge roster also took part in the “Roll with the Pros” ride to benefit the local Bike MS event and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The start line was a sea of mostly argyle and blue, bikes kitted out as much as the riders themselves, with Edge devices and VIRB action cameras.
And this classy classic was kitted out with 4 VIRBS, a backup camera, multiple Edge devices, and a nüvi!
Stories of puppies and babies, too-close-for-comfort hotel rooms, mud-smeared eye sockets and fantastic finish sprints flowed freely during the Q&A session prior to the rideout. And here's what the pros had to share.
Q: The team did a lot of work yesterday to get Alex in position to win the stage. The team came together, the plan worked.
Tom Danielson: Every day in a race we have a meeting and 99% of the time, it just doesn’t all come together. In Colorado, we had a full plate every single day because we were going for the GC as well as stage wins. Every one of these guys were on overtime. On the last day, it was cool how the plan worked out. Alex barely winning over Kiel. It was really fantastic to see it work and to be a part of the team that day. We all have roots in Colorado for sure. But to see all Alex’s family on the side of the road was magical. And he’s like “hey, check it out, it’s my high school on the left.”
Q: So Alex you had quite a fan following in Colorado?
Alex Howes: You’re not supposed to see all that on one bike race. Usually you’re riding through cow patches in Belgium or something. My high school, my elementary school, pretty much my whole family. The last time I saw my cousin was on Skype at Christmas and he was pretty much wigged out with dysentery. During the race there’s some guy running next to me and I’m thinking “who is this idiot? And I look again — Ben? Cousin Ben?” And he’s saying “Go, kill ‘em, kill ‘em.”
Alex: Losing that stage really wasn’t an option. Like when I went up against the barriers at the end, I’m like, this is all in. I’m either gonna crash or I’m gonna win. I’m thinking of all the bones I’m gonna crush and thinking this is gonna suck. Kiel knows me well enough to know if I crash, he crashes. It was better for both of us that he didn’t shut that door.
Q: Thomas, you gained fame for finding things cute and cuddly in Colorado. What was that all about?
Thomas Dekker: I met some guys in Aspen and they asked me to find a baby every morning or a puppy. It was almost as hard as what Tom was doing in the race. So every morning, I put my Team Garmin clothes on and washed my hair and smiled for the babies.
Tom: Utah is tailor-made for me. I was fortunate to come in with great form and motivation. Everyone with me was really motivated. Stage four is really the most challenging. The climb was 8 miles and really steep — like 11% average grade, but some of it was 15%. So we knew the race was going to come down to that climb. Our team really pulled through that day. We had a hard time controlling the race. These guys had to bleed through their eyes to keep the breakaway in check. We were doing over 500 watts sprinting at the bottom of that climb. When Alex pulled over, I went as hard as I could. Chris Horner stayed with me for about 5 minutes, and I said “alright dude, I’m gong to drop you right now.” We just put our hand up and said this is how we’re going to do it. The support of my friends here was phenomenal.
Q: Goals for next year?
Tom: I’d like to do what I did in Utah a lot more and repeat what we did for Alex. Maybe the Giro — something with steep long climbs. Maybe I’ll get some whale fat on me and be able to survive that race. Next up for me is Tour of Alberta —I want to help my teammates win that race.
Q: How does the team decide who races out of 28 guys?
Phil Gaimon: American riders will mostly do the US races because Alex will race a little harder in front of his high school. They tried to move his high school to Sydney, but that didn’t really work.
Q: What was it like to ride your first European races this year?
Phil: I’ve been waiting for this dream. It was humbling because I’m pedaling just as hard as I had been in US races, it’s just I don’t win. Your friends have to scroll to find you in the results.
Tom: So Phil and I were roomies during the Tour. The hotels have these little beds. Phil and I knew each other pretty well, but we got to know each other really well.
Phil: It’s two twin beds and they’re bolted to the floor, really close. So you look at the beds, and then you look at your roommate …
Tom: And then you look for your alarm clock, and it’s actually the toilet.
Q: Early on in Tour, there was a lot of problem with people talking selfies and getting in your way. How did you deal with that?
Alex: It resolved itself when we left England. The crowds were insane. The second day, we came over the top of a hill and rolled into another hill that was terrible, super steep. Banking on either side and over 5,000 people just right there. You’re thinking “how are we going to get through? Where’s the road?” Everyone had bruises on their arms and shoulders. We were all getting called out on Twitter because apparently we were smacking phones out of hands. I can see how that would happen. Someone puts a phone in front of a bike going 30 miles an hour…it’s gonna move.
Q: How much info are you being fed from the directeur when Talansky’s hanging out on the side of the road.
Alex: We hear what they want us to hear. In that particular situation, we had no idea he wasn’t there. Talansky had fallen out of the GC and we’re ready to launch. So we’re thinking “Is this what we’re supposed to be doing?” And we hear “You go to the front and you ride f*&^ing hard.” Ok then, that’s pretty clear.
Q: Tell us about the conditions in stage 2 of the Pro Challenge.
Tom: That stage was a good example of the perceived talent in the peloton. We ride crazier stuff than that all the time. The officials thought “we’ve gotta stop these guys. And then they’re like “we can’t catch these guys, so let them do all the crazy stuff, then we’ll stop them.” Alex and I have mountain biking and bike handling skills. But the hard part was have 2-3% body fat and stopping in the freezing rain. People are like “Are they going to die? Okay, they lived.” Next time you see rain and snow on a dirt road, just know we’re probably going to go down it.
Phil: There was mud flinging up from everyone’s wheels. I was trying to clean my sunglasses and I dropped them. So the mud was flinging in my eyes. So the rest of the way, I’d shut my eyes and then open them a bit and go “okay, it’s straight for a little way, so just ride straight.”
Ben: I was squirting drink mix in my eyes — and that burns.
Tom: So what did we learn? Salt water in your eyes feels better than mud. We’re resilient.
From the Garmin team behind the technology on the bikes to the Team Garmin riders who put those devices to the test day in and day out: thank you for inspiring us to keep the wheels turning.